Denver, CO Biplane Falls From the Sky at Air Show, Nov 1910
Falls 500 Feet To His Death
Johnstone Drops Out Of Sky in His Wright Biplane.
Aircraft Turns Triple Somersault
While Crowd Was Cheering Spectacular Flight At Denver Meet, Holder Of the Altitude Record Is Seen Trying To Keep Atop Of Overturning Aircraft-Is Dashed To Instant Death-Souvenir Hunters Strip Body and Draw Splinters From Wounds.
Denver, Col. (Special).-With one wing of his machine crumbled like a piece of paper, RALPH JOHNSTONE, the brilliant young aviator, holder of the world’s altitude record, dropped like a plummet from a height of 500 feet into the enclosure at Overland Park aviation field and was instantly killed.
When the spectators crowded about the enclosure reached him his body lay beneath the engine of the biplane, with the white planes that had failed him in his time of need wrapped about it like a shroud. Nearly every bone in his body was broken.
He had gambled with death once too often, but he played the game to the end, fighting coolly and grimly to the last second to regain control of his broken machine. Fresh from his triumphs at Belmont Park, where he had broken the world’s record for altitude with a flight of 9,714 feet, Johnstone attempted to give the thousands of spectators an extra thrill with is most daring feat, the spiral glide, which had made the Wright aviators famous. The spectators got their thrill, but it cost Johnstone his life.
His Fight For Life.
The fatal flight was the second Johnstone had made. In the first flight, when he was in the air with Hoxsey and Brookins, he had gone through his usual program of dips and glides with the machine apparently under perfect control. The Johnstone rose again, and after a few circuits of the course to gain height headed toward the foothills.
Still ascending, he swept back in a big circle, and as he reached the north end of the enclosure, he started his spiral glide. He was then at an altitude of about 800 feet. With his plane tilted at an angle of almost 90 degrees, he swooped down in a narrow circle, the aeroplane seeming to turn almost in its own length. As he started the second circle, the middle spur, which braces the left side of the lower plane, gave way, and the wing tips of both upper and lower planes folded up as though they had been hinged. For a second, Johnstone attempted to right the plane by warping the other wing up. Then the horrified spectators saw the plane swerve like a wounded bird and plunged straight toward the earth.
The Dash To Earth.
Johnstone was thrown from his seat as the nose of the plane swung downward. He caught on one of the wire stays between the plane and grasped one of the wooden braces of the upper plane with both hands. Then, working with hands and feet, he fought by main strength to warp the planes so that their surfaces might catch the air and check his descent. For a second it seemed that he might succeed, for the football helmet the wore blew off and fell much more rapidly than the plane.
The hope was momentary, however, for when about 300 feet from the ground, the machine turned completely over and the spectators fled wildly as the broken plane, with the aviator still fighting grimly in the mesh of wires and stays, plunged among them with a crash.
Scarcely had Johnstone hit the ground before morbid men and women swarmed over the wreckage, fighting with each other for souvenirs. One of the broken wooden stays had gone almost through Johnstone’s body. Before doctors or police could reach the scene, one mad had torn this splinter from the body and run away, carrying his trophy with the aviators blood still dripping from its ends. The crowd tore away the canvass from over the body, and even fought for the gloves that had protected Johnstone’s hands from the cold.
Savannah Tribune, Savannah, GA 26 Nov 1910
Annuity For Widow And Children of Johnstone
Dayton, Ohio, Dec. 26.-The Wright company will settle an annuity of approximately $1,000 upon the widow and children of Ralph Johnstone, the aviator killed in a Wright biplane at Denver, according to a statement made tonight by F.H. Russell, manager of the company. The annuity will be placed with an insurance company in New York.
Duluth News-Tribune, Duluth, MN 27 Dec 1910
Johnstone Too Daring.
Johnstone was the last on the American list-Johnstone of Kansas City and afraid of nothing. He knew the skies so well that they called him a guide. A million pair of eyes at one time or another had seen him go laughing into the skies. He had won many prizes. And on two occasions Johnstone had expressed the belief that he would be the first to do real fancy work in the sky and become in a word, the aviating gymnast and loop an imaginary loop.
Johnstone paid the price. The story of how he came down out of 800 feet with a tear and a thud hasn’t begun to fade on the pages of the daily newspaper. His season ended in the grave. His name on the balance sheet is opposite the figures $10,108.
Aberdeen Daily News, Aberdeen, SD 31 Dec 1910